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The Colorful Traditions of Tanzania’s Maasai Tribe

The colorful traditional clothing and beadwork of the Maasai tribe makes them stand out among other African cultures. Tanzania as a country itself, has many different tribes and each one of them tend to have their own favorite colors. The people of the Maasai tribe love anything with the colors red, green, purple, dark blue and
bright orange. The most recognizable style of clothing is a red or red plaid blanket like fabric worn by all
members of the tribe in one way or another. A woman might wear the piece as a skirt while an elder men would
almost always wear it wrapped around his shoulders, this being called the shuka.

tanzania tribesmenThe colors red, blue and green dominate Maasai beadwork and clothing. Red is a sacred color, representing
the blood of life and of death, of unity and bravery. Maasai have traditionally lived semi-nomadically among
herds of huge and fierce wild animals. Red is thought of as protection against these, most importantly, against
the lion. A now outdated Maasai tradition was for a young man to kill a lion with a spear in order to achieve his
status as a man in the tribe. Therefore, warriors, the young men of the group, wear red almost always.

The colors blue and green represent the sky and the grass respectively, two important factors in the lives of
cattle herding people. The jewelry that is created by Maasai women is an intricate beadwork that uses tiny
glass beads called seed beads. Not only are colors used to represent the aspects of tribal life that are
prevalent, but a person’s financial and marital status, age and history can be read in the patterns and styles of
the jewelry worn.

When you visit the Maasai in Tanzania, you will find their famous handwork for sale. The pieces that we have
brought home are practically indestructible as they are made to be worn everyday and in a rugged setting.
Maybe you will find out which bead work or cloth best suits you and bring home a piece that truly represents
the place in your life you are when you made the unforgettable journey to Tanzania.